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WARNING: This page is historical. The main content hasn't been updated since I was last seeking work in Spring of 2001. The address at the bottom is now a spamtrap due to the large number of slimeballs who have spammed it. If you really want to find a working email address for me, look elsewhere on this website.

Virtual Job Interview

Just putting a resume and a generic cover letter online seems silly, given the fact that I can put up so much more of my words online and let people who want to do so read it. So here goes with questions I have heard in past interviews and some answers.


Q: We have a perfect job for you in San Jose (or NYC, Austin, Melbourne, Amsterdam, or anywhere else not commutable from Detroit). How soon can you be here?

A: 2012 at the earliest. Maybe never.
The point here is that I really cannot relocate now, for family reasons. Obviously there are purely hypothetical levels of compensation that could get me to move, but I don't think anyone is going to offer that. How much? I am not really sure, but I am positive it has 6 figures and some duration guarantees. I did say it was hypothetical.

On the other hand, I have some experience telecommuting during my time with MAPS, and within reason I could take a telecommuting position requiring a small amount of travel if it doesn't really demand my regular presence in some not-Detroit location.

Q: Seriously, can't we get you to fly out here for a day to interview?

A: Umm, if you read the previous question (and the next one) and still want to buy me a plane ticket and a hotel room, I'll be happy to. I will need at least a week's notice and a little flexibility.

Q: How do you feel about telecommuting?

A: When can I start? I telecommuted to MAPS, spending less than a month actually in the California office during my 11-month stint. A job which would allow me to live here and work remotely would be ideal. In contrast to the warning 2 questions up, that would be an arrangement that would be positive enough for my non-work life that I might be enticed with sub-standard pay.

Q: Speaking of pay, what are you looking for in dollar terms?

A: That depends on the details of the job. I will not publish my salary history on a public website, but I am willing to say that I have a history of trading nominal salary for benefits, flexibility, and interesting work. I am willing to be flexible. If you really need a number: $85k, but that's flexible. If you are scared away by it, so be it, but that may be a mistake. If you think I'll wear a suit and drive to Ann Arbor to put in 60-hour work weeks for that, please don't contact me. I'm flexible on money to some extent, less so on issues of ruining my life.

Q: So you are flexible on dollars... I guess that means you'll work for peanuts and stock options?

I don't think so.
Stock options are a nice addition to actual compensation, but they aren't actual compensation in most cases. They are forced irrevocable long-term investments. I am a very careful investor, and I will not trade a liveable wage for a crapshoot.

Q: So, what do you think about working 80 hours a week?

I think it is almost sure to suck. I think it probably ought to pay deep into 6 figures for skilled IT work. But on the other hand, I'm a sucker for good causes and really cool ideas, and maybe there's a job out there that will make me want to work at it during all of my time that might otherwise be leisure. I'm not necessarily averse to overtime, but if it's an alternative to finding another worker, that's a problem. I understand that a single job may need more than 40 hours per week of attention, but I'm unimpressed by the idea of making one person doing two jobs. Maybe that's too subtle, but there it is. Ask me if you need clarification.

Q: Why did Solid Clues Consulting formerly have the name Stewart-Cole Consulting? Did you have a senior partner?

A: In a way yes, although she did not involve herself much in the business. In 1987 I married a woman named Sandra Stewart. We both hyphenated our names, becoming William and Sandra Stewart-Cole. In 1998 we separated and in 1999 we divorced and we both changed our names back to our pre-marriage names. If you hunt my website hard enough, you can get a lot more detail on this.

Q: What did you do as 'Stewart-Cole Consulting?'

A: A lot of things. I fixed the Mac side of a cross-platform C++ GUI library for a small development house based near St. Louis. I built a complex of custom spreadsheets in Quattro Pro for a restaurant. I built a Mac extension that implemented time, print, and access control by an external card reader for companies that rented out time on their Macs. I analyzed hardware and software needs for multiple small businesses in St. Louis. I provided the full range of system administration services for small businesses running MacOS and Unix servers who could not justify full-time IT staff. I advised a Minneapolis printer on their first 2 Linux boxes, and helped them administer and upgrade them for 2 years, all remotely. I even helped a few home users set up and troubleshoot their computers. I wrote the HTML for a few websites. I did image processing. I wrote some Perl, some Pascal, and some C. I made enough money to live on, I had a fair amount of fun, and I learned a lot about computers and about how businesses operate and how to communicate effectively with people who manage businesses. I also learned that being an independent consultant is a good way to make a lot of money occasionally, no money often, and enough to calmly live on only sometimes. I learned that being honest is not always the path to wealth, but that being a liar isn't in me. I learned that a marriage can be fatally wounded by a job that is loved to much.

Work Experiences

Q: What did you do at T-Systems?

A: System administration, security consulting, e-mail, DR, Solaris, etc. (expand this)

Q: Why did you leave T-Systems?

A: They moved the work I was doing to Mexico.

Q: What did you do at MAPS?

A: I spent most of a year trying to make outsourced abuse desks fund the organization, in two positions.

As 'Senior Consultant' I reported directly to the Director of Customer Operations, and took on any task he assigned. This included running a seminar for mass e-mail service providers to explain how to make sure they were not being abusive, making sales pitches to prospective clients for the outsourced abuse desk product, writing custom software to integrate client systems with our own and extend those tools, advising the abuse desk operational team on workflow issues, consulting with clients on policy, writing AUP's for clients, preparing preliminary material for law enforcement training programs that never really took off, and facilitating the creation and customization of an abuse-focused variant of RT (an open source ticketing system) working with our internal development staff.

When Michael Rathbun resigned his position as Director of Customer Operations at the end of January 2001, he recommended me as his replacement and his advice was followed. That change of leadership also brought a reorganization which refocused CO on the outsourced abuse desk product (named "Policy Administration Services" or just "PAS") and reassigned our other staff to other duties inside MAPS. PAS was in an extended pilot with one active client and unfortunately that client relationship rapidly deteriorated due to a mix of reasons that included their impending bankruptcy. Soon after I took over, it became clear that we needed to terminate that relationship to retain our own staff and preserve MAPS' ethical integrity. During the transition of policy enforcement to their internal staff, I also worked with MAPS' Market & Business Development department to land new business, but we were marketing into the "dotcom" bubble bursting.

Q: So why did you leave MAPS so soon after a promotion?

A: It was not my choice. In the last 6 months of my time at MAPS, the collapse of the online economy resulted in our prospects dropping from more eager would-be customers than we could deal with in Fall '00 to zero by Spring '01. That collapse also did violence to MAPS' funding. In order to preserve MAPS' core online operations (the RBL and other lists) the board eliminated my entire division and many jobs in the rest of the organization, firing half of the paid MAPS staff.

In simple terms: time and money ran out. MAPS attempted an expansion which its resources could not support, and economic conditions in the target market killed the opportunity for that expansion to fund itself, much less achieve the intended funding of the rest of the company from those paid services.

Q: How does MAPS as a Trend Micro brand relate to your time working for MAPS?

A: Almost none. The remainder of MAPS after I left had at least 2 massive staff revolutions, a major management change, and a formal ownership change in the years before the sale to Trend Micro, which I understand to have been a sale of intellectual property, not an operational business.

Q: What did you do for DCX as the Senior Systems Admin for Extended Enterprise Network Support?

A: I did systems administration in support of the EEN, of course. :)
That entails a lot of different tasks, of course. I managed a scant dozen Unix (Sun Solaris 2.5.1 and 2.6, to be precise) hosts running Netscape's server software (Enterprise Server, Proxy Server, and Directory Server) which provide access to internal supply-chain and related applications to outside business partners. I provided 2nd-level support to those users and to internal users of the same applications. I trained our 1st level support specialists and assisted a junior admin on technical issues. I worked with other support groups, including the DCX general help desk, application-specific support, and Site Support in resolving user problems and defining the scope of responsibilities for different support operations regarding EEN issues. I worked with the EEN Architecture team on maintaining and improving the architecture and on planning for future re-architecting of the system for better reliability and availability. I built notification systems for the support staff to use to alert key customers of outages, and for the EEN components to alert the support staff before problems resulted in users calling. I acted as a consultant to the 'solutions' group (which interacts with developers and internal customers) on support issues. I maintained the tools which queried the DCX trouble ticket system to provide us statistics on our activity and performance. I worked with developers directly to enhance the stability of their applications in production and in the two-tiered test environment (i.e. bleeding-edge test/dev and pre-production). I created support documentation for use by the rest of the EEN support team and by the after-hours general client/server support team. I advised external users on how to configure their individual systems and their networks to access the EEN systems reliably and securely.

Q: What did you do for DCX as a Senior Systems Admin for Client/Server Site Support?

A: I worked on the daytime shift of a 24x7, 364 day per year team consisting of 12 admins and 2 technical analysts who collaboratively provide all 2nd-level support and most routine administration for the approximately 600 midrange servers located around the world in facilities of the former Chrysler Corporation. (Former Daimler facilities are in the process of being merged into the DCX centralized support structure.) Site Support handles all OS and hardware related tasks for those systems (primarily AIX and Solaris, with a small number of Windows NT and older 'oddball' Unix systems) more complex than routine user addition and not requiring the attention of the '3rd level' strategic planning and deployment team for midrange systems. On that team, I provided user support for OS functions of our hosts, created technical documentation for the team to use, performed troubleshooting, performed OS and application installation and patching, and coordinated hardware service with vendors (Amdahl, IBM, and DEC/Compaq) and local users of our systems. In addition to those general tasks which all team members shared, I personally advised the newly formed EEN support team on a wide range of issues regarding administration of web servers and created new tools and documentation for the improved stability and simplified administration and troubleshooting of the 50-server collection of machines acting as print and terminal gateways between TCP/IP and SNA (mainframe) systems.

Q: Why did you leave CDI/DCX?

A: DCX is very big, very corporate, very bureaucratic, and very compartmentalized. I was in an outsourced support operation, and there seemed very little chance for me to move into any of the jobs where I seemed likely to have more freedom to make a real difference. I could have kept doing my job indefinitely because I was very good at it, my managers loved me, and the work wasn't going away. I just didn't want to do that. I left to return to working closer to the cutting edge, closer to the people making decisions, and closer to the outside world.

Q: What did you do at Finan Publishing?

A: In short: I replaced the outside consultants who had previously done all complex systems work and much of the simpler work. I completed the transition of the central corporate server from WindowsNT to Linux, extended seamless network support to Mac users, and built websites using HTML, Perl CGI programs, and FileMaker Pro databases, later handing off much of the web authoring to a newly hired web designer. I ran strictly opt-in mailing lists associated with our sites and magazines. I piloted a weekly fax newsletter operated completely in-house. I planned and executed a platform migration from Windows for Workgroups to MacOS for the production department. I managed the in-house Linux server running corporate e-mail, file, and print service. I established the first real shared print service in the organization, allowing all users to access the high-end printers. I managed a webserver co-located with our ISP running BSDI 2.0 and Apache, and later migrated to a different server at a different ISP using Linux and Apache with zero down time. I navigated the politics of changing ISP's for the colocation and of weaning the company and their prior outside consultants from each other. I provided training for the web designer in technical areas. I established standards for HTML coding to assure broad browser compatibility. I worked with outside hosting clients in building sites to their specifications. I worked with editors to create our own sites, creating basic designs and architectures that continue to stand as the core of the company's sites today. I designed workflow systems to get new print content onto the web without sacrificing or redoing the work of our print production department. I researched, evaluated, and specified all new hardware and software. I supported the internal staff, users of Windows95, Windows for Workgroups, and MacOS. In short: I straddled the entire IT realm of the company from tape-swapping to planning and presenting new network architecture proposals to the owner, and I loved it.

Q: If you loved your job at Finan so much, why did you leave?

A: Strictly personal reasons. The woman I intended to marry was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she needed me with her to help her through that nightmare. In Detroit. However much I loved my job, it was imperative that I move here to be with her when she needed me. She's past the cancer now, and we are quite happily married.

Q: What is EAC Integrated Furniture Solutions and what did you do for them?

A: EAC/IFS (now doing business simply as "Integrated Furniture Solutions") is a mid-sized maker of office furniture under the EckAdams and Vogel-Peterson brand names. Last I checked their websites were unreachable, but I doubt the company is gone. I was originally hired to complete a kiosk system which they had started with an outside multimedia programmer, and to provide support for their Macintosh users, and to advise the IS manager on the creation of a LAN to supercede their collection of serial terminals attached to a central VAX. The kiosk project was originally planned to be an electronic multimedia catalog and brand education system to be put into dealer locations and used at trade shows. Before that was complete, the company acquired the Vogel-Peterson operations from Acco, spurring a re-organization which eliminated my manager, moved me directly into the marketing department, and mothballed the kiosk project. My development efforts were redirected towards other projects such as building smaller tools for the sales staff and independent reps to use to present the company and products to customers. I also gained responsibility for acquiring and managing Internet access for key employees and creating a corporate website. I worked with upper management and a designer to build the website (hosted externally) and with other members of the marketing staff to create multimedia sales tools that could be handed to customers, such as a program which guided customers through the selection of the right chair for their sort of work and allowed them to fully customize the chair and get a price for the exact configuration they chose. I worked with the IS manager to set up a high-speed network link from the main headquarters building to a new temporary facility to which the marketing and engineering departments were moved. I managed the mail server which handled Internet mail. I acted as liaison to our webhosting provider.

Q: Why did you leave EAC/IFS?

A: The corporate culture was toxic. I had 5 bosses in my stay there, 4 of them in the last 12 months; at one point I was reporting only to the CEO because there was no marketing director. I was in the wrong department for what I did, and as a result my work was not understood or appreciated by my ever-changing managers, the last 4 of which did not even have a grasp of how to manage someone with my duties. By the time I left I was exactly tied for seniority in the department (18 months) with the 'interim' director of marketing, having watched all 5 of the people who had been in the department prior to myself quit or be fired without clear cause. By acquisition and success in the market, the company had tripled in sales and quadrupled in product lines, but had seen the marketing staff grow by only one position. I was tired, overworked, underappreciated, and disgusted.

Q: What did you do at Odyssey Ultraware?

A: Worked my butt off for far too little money, loving every second. OUI was a tiny bootstrap startup, initiated by a research vascular surgeon who had caught the BBS bug and taught himself how to do database development. I was hired to develop add-ons for the software used for his commercial BBS (FirstClass, a product designed for corporate groupware and email applications) that would allow users to access Internet services, primarily FTP. I was also tasked with administering the system, which was growing fast in user size and complexity. The administration load increased, and the development stalled for a complex set of reasons, and eventually I was doing almost all system administration. I supported users with their problems with using the system and with a wide range of other problems with their computers. I managed and troubleshot the feed of Usenet news and Internet e-mail into the system, working closely with our feed provider and the developers of the software to resolve a multitude of problems. I set up a live link to the Internet, and developed a system whereby we could exchange feeds of data from our system to other FirstClass systems globally, a process which had previously been run over a series of dialup connections. This work revolutionized the operation of the OneNet network of FC systems. I acted as liaison for the company to other OneNet sites, our UUCP provider, our ISP, and our software vendors. I was the online 'face' of the company to our 1200+ user base. Towards the end of my work with OUI, I also became the maintainer for the Usenet FAQ for the alt.bbs.first-class newsgroup. Technically I remain so although that newsgroup has largely succumbed to 'spamming' and been abandoned by FC admins, and the FAQ has not been posted or updated in over 3 years.

Q: Why did you leave Odyssey Ultraware?

A: The company went bust. They no longer were able to pay me even the miniscule salary they had been, and I was offered a share of equity plus a share of sales of any software in lieu of any salary, but I was unable to work under those terms. The company technically still exists under the ownership of the former minority partner but with a very different focus, none of the operations I was involved with, and no permanent staff.


Q: Where do you want to be in (x) years?

(I have heard this question with many different values of (x). Five seems popular, but I got 'two' in an interview last year, which is part of why I was uneasy about the job... )

A: On a beach somewhere, living off my massive wealth earned in those x years, with my family and friends nearby and a multimegabit Internet link.

But seriously, how does one answer this question honestly and in a manner that will impress an interviewer? The above is absolutely true, but it doesn't say much about me other than "I am not my job!" More realistically, where I intend to go with my career really isn't likely to get me to that point any time soon if at all, because I'd rather take the reality of being happy enough now than be miserable because of my job now for the sake of maybe making huge piles of money from that misery.

My professional ambition is to be in a position that allows me to guide the way the organization around me uses computer systems, and for the organization as a whole to be doing something I can believe in. That may mean going into the academic or non-profit world, but it might also mean working for a company that pays and treats its workers well, or that does something of real value for its customers.

So getting there is the issue. MAPS provided me such a job, and I loved it. MAPS also provided me with experience and the confidence to seek another such job without the shortcomings of MAPS.

Q: Where do you expect to be professionally in (x) years?

A: A slightly different question, indeed, and one I should put numbers on:
In 2 years I expect that I will be working at whatever job I finally get at the end of this current job hunt. As long as I don't jump at an extreme paycheck that comes with an awful job, I expect I will be pretty happy where I am in two years, probably done with whatever major work I came in needing to do to immediately, ready to really be the steering force behind my own work. I expect that job will probably provide enough innate scope and flexibility that after a couple of years I will be able to find appropriate areas to focus my efforts and take them on as personal projects. An example: 3 months after starting at DCX Site Support, I took on the SNA gateways as a pet project because they were generating a huge fraction of our trouble tickets, and hence a large fraction of our immediate-need support work. By the time I moved on, the gateways were more stable and the tickets caused by actual problems with them were significantly reduced even as the volume of traffic through them had increased. The problem with doing this in a tightly focused support position was the constant flow of immediate-need work to be done; it is hard to effectively guide one's own work and get results in a timely fashion when primarily tasked with such a stream of problems. I expect that in whatever job I move to I will soon be able to take initiative in what I am doing based on what I see as the needs of the organization.

In 5 years I expect that I will likely have moved on from wherever I move soon. I expect that to be 'up' in some sense, either to greater responsibility in the same organization, or to somewhere else where I can further expand my horizons. Possibly CIO/CTO in a small to midsized company or an internal consultant in a larger organization.

In 10 years... I don't know. 10 years ago I was working as a research assistant in a biomedical lab at Washington University, toying with the idea of going back to school to get a Ph.D. in biochemistry. I would have never predicted that I would be working as a systems administrator in Detroit in 2000, much less telecommuting for a California company to manage a team of network abuse investigators in 2001. Or that many of the other major life changes of the past few years would ever happen to me. So in 10 years what? Dunno. I hope it's that beach with the OC-192 feed.

In Closing...

Wow, someone got this far. You must be interested, or maybe you're the sort who slows at highway accidents to look for the body parts. If there's another job interviewish question you want to ask, I'll answer it. Just e-mail me and I'll mail you back with whatever comes to mind first, and after reflection I might put something more thought-out here.